Building a Strong Foundation in Your Marriage

Our very own Angela Michnowicz, LMHC has completed Principles of Effective Couples Therapy trainings from the highly respected Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman. Specialty Trainings like these increase expertise in working with couples and improving communication within relationships. Ms. Michnowicz has graciously provided a series of blogs based on her trainings, to provide education to clients who may be interested in working on their relationship. Below is the second in the Relationship Series. See the first in the series here The Four Horsemen That Will Destroy A Relationship & How To Defeat Them

Some couples feel as if they are married to a roommate. If that feels like you, you may want to consider incorporating  friendship into your marriage. Dr.’s  John and Julie Gottman have created the Sound Relationship House to simplify this process. The aim is to provide you with the fundamental building blocks for a strong and healthy relationship.

The load bearing walls include trust and commitment. Without that, the house falls. If these things are an issue, it must be addressed first. Talk to your counselor to establish a plan for improving these areas before moving on the rest of the house.


Floor 1: Build Love Maps

This means truly understanding the other’s inner world. This means to stop the habit of listening to respond, instead listen to understand. This will help your partner feel known and wanted.  I would encourage you to ask open ended questions to explore other’s dreams and values. There are even couples card decks that help encourage communication if you struggle with what to ask.

Floor 2: Share Fondness and Admiration

We should challenge ourselves to catch our partner doing the right thing, saying thank you for small things to develop a culture of appreciation. This may be difficult for those who are not as verbal, they may think of the compliment but not verbalize it. So here is your sign, to just say it.

Floor 3: Turn Towards

When a loved one makes bids for emotional connection, we can either turn away or turn towards. If a partner looks at a pretty bird and points it out, the other should acknowledge them. This simply displays “what is important to you, is important to me”. The negative alternative is that a partner could turn away or even turn against, ” I’m not interested in the bird, I am reading an important article”. If we bid for emotional connection and receive a negative response, there is a strong chance that the partner will feel uncomfortable to bid again. This is because rejection and lack of connection is painful and sometimes humiliating. 

Floor 4: The Positive Perspective

This simply means giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are well intentioned and not meaning to hurt your feelings. If we have a chip on our shoulder, it’s very difficult to give the benefit of the doubt.  Focusing on increasing positive interactions will build positive sentiment over time. This simply means that we build a buffer against negativity.

Floor 5: Manage Conflict

You can’t avoid so it’s important to know what to do when it shows up. This is where we learn to self soothe, communicate and to accept influence from loved ones. Repair is very important; humor could be like gold during this process. For example, a couple may go for a walk together to assist the repair process. Statements like “boy, that didn’t go well, can we talk about it?”, may be helpful.

Floor 6: Make Life Dreams Come True

A loving partner is someone who encourages you and helps you reach your goals. Collaborating towards a common goal could look like making a plan to pay off debt or planning a vacation together.


Floor 7: Create Shared Meaning

We may honor both persons dreams by truly understanding love maps. Ideally, we learn how to build purpose together in the world. Couples can develop their own relationship culture and traditions. This can be as simple as eating Tacos every Tuesday or celebrating your child’s good grades with ice-cream every grading period.

If any of these Floors for a Sound Relationship House resonate with you and where you’re at in your relationship, then it may be time to connect with a trained couple’s therapist. Please contact us to schedule a consult.

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